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Obese Children Face More Complications During Surgery

Study says breathing-related problems more likely in the overweight

MONDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- Obese children are much more likely than normal-weight children to have breathing-related problems during surgery, says a University of Michigan Health System study.

The researchers, who looked at 1,380 normal-weight, 351 overweight, and 294 obese children, aged 2 to 18, who had elective, non-cardiac surgery, found that obese children had a higher rate of difficult mask ventilation, airway obstruction, major oxygen desaturation (decrease in oxygen in the blood), and other airway problems.

Specifically, the study found that:

  • 19 percent of obese children and 11 percent of normal-weight children experienced major airway obstructions.
  • Almost 9 percent of obese children and 2 percent of normal-weight children experienced difficult mask ventilation.
  • 17 percent of obese children and 9 percent of normal-weight children experienced major oxygen desaturation.
  • Obese children also had higher rates of asthma (28 percent vs. 16 percent), hypertension, sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes, all of which contribute to problems during surgery.

However, despite the increased risk of adverse events among the obese children in this study, none suffered significant illness.

The study is published in the March issue of Anesthesiology.

"Based on current trends, it is likely that anesthesiologists will continue to care for an increasing number of children who are overweight or obese, so it is vital that we are aware of the higher risk they face in the operating room," lead author Alan R. Tait, a professor in the department of anesthesiology at the U-M Health System, said in a prepared statement.

About 15 percent to 17 percent of children and adolescents in the United States are obese, according to background information in the study.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about childhood obesity.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, February 2008

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